Tuesday, 11 June 2013

reviews: Gastric Band, Spectrals, Anna Von Hausswolf

                                              Gastric Band – Party Feel

Gastric Band - Party Feel (****)

As their moniker might imply, Glasgow's Gastric Band are tight. There is barely an ounce of fat on debut album Party Feel: a wild-eyed odyssey encompassing all manner of weird and wonderful sounds. Opener It’s Good But It’s Not Right sets a high benchmark: as fidgety guitar lines snake across double-drummed rhythms, its playful voodoo jazz establishes Gastric Band’s perpetually off-kilter credentials.

The dynamism continues with Dustin Binman (notable for the awesome power-riffs of the final third); the no-nonsense Brad Shitt, which hungrily rifles through tempos as locked-together guitars dance up and down fret-boards; and Sexy Grandad, a warped array of volatile percussion and tricksy quasi-melodies. By which point anyone in their right mind will be ready for something less forcefully kinetic – a craving Gastric Band astutely sate with Under A Glass Table’s eight minutes of comparatively cogent prog. Easy listening it ain’t, but well worth dropping a few pounds for.
Out now

                                             Spectrals – Sob Story

Spectrals - Sob Story (***)
 
Spectrals – the nom de plume of Yorkshire singer-songwriter Louis Jones – introduced his brand of lovelorn guitar pop on 2011’s promising Bad Penny, a strong debut that secured the then-21-year-old profile-raising support slots with the likes of Best Coast and Real Estate. But unlike said record’s proverbial namesake, his return is a welcome one - albeit with a caveat or two.

The first reservation is country-tinged ballad Friend Zone: musically elegant but lyrically whingey, its introspective rejection narrative proves rather too on the nose (“you probably think I’m really nice… you wouldn’t be seen dead with me”). The second miss is closer In a Bad Way, in which the title is repeated ad nauseam over a flat dirge, ending the album in, well, a bad way. But elsewhere, Jones finds his flair with faster, more dynamic tracks like the glam-echoing new wave of A Heartbeat Behind, which earns Sob Story its happy ending.

Out now

                                               Anna Von Hausswolff – Ceremony

Anna Von Hausswolf - Ceremony (****)
 
If you think the title of Ceremony’s opening instrumental Epitaph of Theodor sounds grandiose, wait till you hear its brooding church organ melody – an imposing herald for its majestic parent album. Throughout, Swedish songwriter Anna Von Hausswolff’s compositions are toweringly dramatic: whether evoking ruin or resurrection, doom or desire, her spiralling vocals are as radiant as its organ rumbles are deep.

This play of light and shade is integral to Ceremony’s impact, with a track like Deathbed creating a dark, dangerous atmosphere through ominous drones, then building to a glorious, final act ascendance. Mountains Crave has a relative levity (despite its ‘rain/pain’ rhymes) while Epitaph of Daniel recalls the haunting, graceful motifs of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks work, balancing the foreboding tone that governs the likes of No Body’s tuneless interlude or Goodbye’s mournful undertow. Despite its hefty length and heftier emotions, Ceremony’s integral beauty makes its navigation an absolute delight.

Out 17th June

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